Epic Games has offered a first look at Unreal Engine 5 — the next-generation of its technology designed to create photorealistic images on par with movie CG and real life. Designed for development teams of all sizes, it offers productive tools and content libraries
Unreal Engine 5 will be available in preview in early 2021, and in full release late in 2021, supporting next-generation consoles, current-generation consoles, PC, Mac, iOS and Android.
The reveal was introduced with Lumen in the Land of Nanite, a realtime demo running live on PlayStation 5, to showcase Unreal Engine technologies that can allow creators to reach the highest level of realtime rendering detail in the next generation of games and beyond.
New core technologies in Unreal Engine 5
Nanite virtualized micropolygon geometry will allow artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. Nanite virtualized geometry means that film-quality source art comprising hundreds of millions or billions of polygons can be imported directly into Unreal Engine — anything from ZBrush sculpts to photogrammetry scans to CAD data. Nanite geometry is streamed and scaled in real time, so there are no more polygon count budgets, polygon memory budgets, or draw count budgets. Users won’t need to bake details to normal maps or manually author LODs, and, according to Epic, there is no loss in quality.
Lumen is a fully dynamic global Illumination solution that reacts to scene and light changes. The system renders diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in detailed environments, at scales ranging from kilometers to millimeters. Artists can create more dynamic scenes using Lumen, for example, changing the sun angle for time of day, turning on a flashlight, or blowing a hole in the ceiling. Additionally, indirect lighting will adapt accordingly. Lumen erases the need to wait for lightmap bakes to finish and to author light map UVs — a big time savings when an artist can move a light inside the Unreal Editor and lighting looks the same as when the game is run on console.
To build large scenes with Nanite geometry technology, Epic’s team made heavy use of the Quixel Megascans library, which provides film-quality objects up to hundreds of millions of polygons. To support vastly larger and more detailed scenes than previous generations, PlayStation 5 provides a dramatic increase in storage bandwidth.
The demo also showcases existing engine systems such as Chaos physics and destruction, Niagara VFX, convolution reverb and ambisonics rendering.
Unreal Engine 4 and 5 Timeline
Unreal Engine 4.25 already supports next-generation console platforms from Sony and Microsoft, and Epic is working closely with console manufacturers and dozens of game developers and publishers using Unreal Engine 4 to build next-gen games. Epic is designing for forward compatibility, so developers can get started with next-gen development now in UE4 and move projects to UE5 when ready.
Epic will release Fortnite, built with UE4, on next-gen consoles at launch and, in keeping with the team’s commitment to prove out industry-leading features through internal production, migrate the game to UE5 in mid-2021.
Waiving Unreal Engine Royalties: first $1 Million in Game Revenue
Game developers can still download and use Unreal Engine for free, but now royalties are waived on the first $1 million in gross revenue per title. The new Unreal Engine license terms are retroactive to January 1, 2020.
Epic Online Services
Friends, matchmaking, lobbies, achievements, leaderboards and accounts: Epic built these services for Fortnite, and launched them across seven major platforms — PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. Now Epic Online Services are opened up to all developers for free in a simple multiplatform SDK.
Developers can mix and match these services together with their own account services, platform accounts, or Epic Games accounts, which reach the world’s largest social graph with over 350 million players and their 2.2 billion friend connections across half a billion devices.